Chain Drive Conversion

Article and Photos By: Jeremy Johnson

Originally Published In The May 2012 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine


This is a lengthy process so I’m going to leave out torque specs. You should always have a manual to consult about any process that we cover. This Zippers’ chain drive conversion is a great way to clean up your bike and put a chrome chain on. It will also allow a wider tire to be installed if that’s the look you’re going for. Zippers can also adjust your gearing with different combinations to raise or lower your cruising rpms. They always offer high performance parts and have outstanding quality. I’m usually a little hesitant of bolt-on kits because I always wind up redoing what I shouldn’t have to. This kit was way beyond that. It was absolutely perfect and I didn’t have to re-measure or cut anything. It came with all the needed hardware, new chain, sprockets and spacers. We are doing this kit on a modified FXR that’s a real race bike. The motor’s done to the gills and the whole bike just screams “go faster!” This made the owner worry about the belt breaking so we wanted to check this kit out and were super impressed. Each bike is different so there will be fewer steps involved with this due to the custom fenders and exhaust. Let’s get started on the swap.


The first step is to secure the bike and raise the rear wheel off the ground in order to remove it. To take off this wheel you just need to remove the axle and let the rear tire down. With the tire down, remove the axle spacers and slide the drive belt off the pulley. Now that the drive belt is off, secure the rear brake caliper off to the side so you don’t cause any damage to the rear brakes. Pull the rear wheel out and set it off to the side. We will get back to it in just a little bit.


Next, we will remove the primary drive. The primary consists of a few steps as it has several moving parts inside but it’s pretty easy to do. This is where things vary again from forward controls to mid controls. When it comes to the job, it all depends on your bike and how it comes apart. With the forward controls on this bike I didn’t have to remove them at all so I went straight into the primary cover. The primary cover is easily removed. Under the bike there will be a small drain plug near the rear of the primary cover. Remove that plug and start letting the fluid out. While it’s draining, I’ll start taking all the cover bolts out. Sometimes these bolts are different lengths so you don’t want to confuse them. If it helps, draw a diagram so you don’t forget where they all go.


Now we can loosen the clutch cable adjustment and give some slack in the cable. We can now remove the adjuster screw in the clutch basket with snap ring pliers and then remove the primary chain adjusting nut. There are several special sockets I use for this job along with a primary locking tool. It’s a good thing to have these tools if you plan on working on your bike a lot. Start by removing the compensator sprocket nut and the clutch basket retaining nut. With the nuts removed, slide the drive assembly off; be careful, this is a little heavy.


Next, take out the starter bolts and the starter jack shaft. Now remove all of the inner primary retaining bolts and lock tabs. Like earlier, don’t confuse these either as they are also different lengths. Slide the inner primary off and set aside. With that removed, you will need a special socket to detach the drive sprocket nut. Remove the lock screw and retainer then take off the drive sprocket nut and pulley. With all of that out of the way, clean everything really well.


It’s now time for reassembly which should be pretty easy. Start by sliding the new sprocket on the main shaft of the tranny. Make sure you use red Loctite on the main shaft when installing the main shaft nut. Then use blue Loctite in the retaining Allen screw. Now that this is on, start replacing the inner primary. In the case of the lock tabs, if they’re good I reuse them but if they look like they might break, replace them. They are very important. I use blue Loctite on all bolts under ½ inch. Replace the starter bolts and reinstall the jack shaft.


With all that done, start replacing the primary drive set up, clutch basket and the compensator. Use red Loctite on all of this. Adjust the chain and you’re good to reinstall the clutch adjusting screw and snap ring. Now adjust the cable and reinstall the primary cover. Always use new gaskets when doing this kind of work. Your local shop or dealer can set you up with what you need.


We can now remove the rear pulley from the wheel, install the spacer that comes with the kit as well as the sprocket. This kit comes with new bolts to secure the sprocket so use them and put red Loctite on. From here we can reinstall the rear wheel and torque everything down. Make sure you pump the rear brake a few time after assembly so they work on the first ride. You’re now ready for the chain.


Chain installation can be a little tricky. Put the tranny in neutral and start feeding the chain in. With it in, wrap it around the rear sprocket and mark what you need to cut off. Remove the chain and cut it according to the instructions. Replace the chain and install the master link. Now tighten everything up to specs in the manual and go for a ride.


I was completely pleased with this kit. It was super easy to install and after the test ride, it was even better. It looks like a race bike and the performance was great. There was no vibration from the chain at all. I’m ready to test any part that is produced by Zippers Performance. Go check them out and see what they have for you.